President Vladimir Putin:
Good day, dear friends,
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all here to Moscow, the Russian capital.
But before turning to the more substantial part of what I have to say, I would first, on behalf of the Russian authorities, like to wish the Defence Minister of Kazakhstan a happy birthday and pass on our best wishes for health, success and a good mood.
The military and military-technical cooperation that we pursue within the framework of the CIS is a decisive factor for our work together throughout the post-Soviet area. It is decisive for security and for the peaceful lives of our citizens. Your ability to work well together is an essential condition for the social and economic development of our countries.
Our countries’ respective defence agencies are dealing with many very similar tasks, most important of which is modernising the armed forces. Modern armed forces face very high demands and I hope that our cooperation in this area will enable us to resolve these issues more effectively.
Our military partnership has a rich history and good, longstanding and glorious traditions. Over the last decade it has developed successfully on a principally new and equal basis. I am certain that we all understand well the role and responsibility the CIS countries have in ensuring stability throughout the entire Eurasian area, and even beyond.
To a considerable extent the situation in the world in general depends on how we go about our work in this area. This is no exaggeration. This is why it is so important that we clearly define not only our current tasks, but that we also have a clear action plan for the future. I think that your council should definitely play a key part in these processes.
I know that during your meeting here you have summed up the results of your work this year and discussed your upcoming priorities. You have taken a whole series of important decisions, including on building up peacekeeping efforts by the CIS countries, creating joint defence systems, exchange of information and personnel training.
As was planned, in 2004 we are to come up with conceptual approaches to developing our military cooperation through to 2010. Of course, the approaches we come up with should be based on a comprehensive analysis of the international situation and must correspond to the priorities set for building up our own national armed forces. There can be no doubt about this.
We also see a lot of promise in the idea of creating unified defence complexes.
I see that our birthday boy today [reference to M. Altynbayev, the Defence Minister of Kazakhstan] is nodding his head because, as he himself told me, he is a specialist in anti-aircraft defence and this is the area in which we have been cooperating most effectively. We can say that our joint anti-aircraft defence system is developing successfully. But this is not the only priority for our work together. I’m thinking also of the need to create a common geo-information system. The creation of this kind of integrated infrastructure would enable us to optimise our financial and material expenses, which are significant. We can allocate money, material resources and people to defence purposes only in so much as it absolutely necessary, because we need all of these things above all to resolve the social problems we face, and so this is why we must look for ways to optimise our defence spending. Ultimately, our countries’ defence potential will depend on how effectively we spend the money we have at our disposal for defence needs.
As we have noted on past occasions, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation offers new opportunities for furthering our cooperation. Not all of the colleagues here today work actively in this organisation. This is not the end of the world, but I do think that there, where this work is progressing, our colleagues are seeing the use of this kind of cooperation. We intend to continue increasing these efforts. I must say that if we have gone and established a military organisation, its participants should feel that they are getting some kind of advantage out of it, or else why have created it in the first place? I think that the other colleagues will understand me here: the advantages that we can provide, we will provide them. Here, I am referring to training programmes. We are moving over to a system of free tuition and training for personnel from countries participating in the Collective Security Treaty Organisation and we will sell these countries our arms at internal prices.
I think the creation of joint rapid deployment forces is an important part of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation. I hope that with the formation of a joint general staff these elements of our cooperation within the organisation’s framework will continue to build up and develop. We will carry out joint training exercises. At the annual “Southern Shield” exercises, participants worked through ways and methods of joint action to neutralise large armed gangs.
In general, I must say that whatever the additional regional organisations we may have, this area of cooperation – counter-terrorism cooperation – has a particular place in general in the world today and especially in the post-Soviet area. Having reliable armed forces and defence agencies is a crucial part of this joint work.
Finally, I must also mention another issue that we must resolve if we are to call our joint work effective, and that is the social aspect of our activities.
This above all concerns providing for military pensioners – people who conscientiously performed their duties over the course of decades. I believe that no matter which of the CIS countries they have chosen to live in, they should be assured of receiving a decent level of social and medical assistance. It is the responsibility of the relevant authorities in the CIS countries, including the military authorities, to ensure that this is so. We have inter-state agreements on this count. I know that with only rare exceptions, the military looks after its people well, and I hope that this will continue to be the case. I ask you to give this issue your utmost attention. If additional decisions are required at the political level, then please, set them out. For this, you will need to turn to the right address, to the Ukrainian President, as he is currently the head of the CIS.
I know that my colleagues, the leaders of the CIS countries are all ready to take the necessary steps to find solutions to these tasks and help you to resolve them effectively.
I would like to wish you success. If there is anything you want to say, any questions or matters for discussion, then I am at your disposal.